Resources

Video: Joy to the World by Dr. Scott Hahn

What could be more familiar than the Christmas story – and yet what could be so extraordinary? Allow your Christmas to become new all over again in Scott Hahn’s book, Joy to the World. Dr. Hahn sheds light on the most important element of the Christmas story—the Holy Family — examining the characters and the story in light of biblical and historical context in an extraordinary way that will change your Christmas, this year and forever. For more information, visit ImageCatholicBooks.com.


Reading Guide: Why Be Catholic? by Patrick Madrid

Why Be Catholic? Ten Answers to a Very Important Question by Patrick Madrid

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Drawing upon author Patrick Madrid’s own experiences—from his childhood in 1960s California to his life’s work as an author and master apologist—Why Be Catholic? offers a personal, biblically-based exploration of Catholicism. Perfect for seekers or beginners, Madrid explains ten simple, clear reasons to be Catholic. In the process, he reveals the remarkable gifts the Catholic Church brings to the lives of the faithful.  Madrid proves that Catholicism really does offer true happiness, satisfying humanity’s deepest longings. The Catholic Church is where God’s face is revealed, His mercy is received, and His love is shared.

 

Chapter 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

How can the Catholic Church claim to be the “one true Church” in spite of the number of sex crimes committed by the clergy, as well as the moral decline of its lay members?

What has the Catholic Church’s response been to such overwhelming scandal? Summarize Sean Patrick O’Malley’s statement about the crisis as the newly appointed archbishop of Boston.

What does Patrick Madrid define as the Catholic Church’s answer to the many problems we all face?

Imagine that Jesus Christ was speaking to you about the enticements of worldly pleasure, power, and as he did to the rich young man in Matthew 19:16–26. How would you respond? What would you do with your wealth?

Jesus used a parable of a field of wheat and weeds (see Matthew 13:24–30) to illustrate the state of the world and even the state of the Church, with both good and bad Christians existing together. What are some examples from the Bible where this has been the case?  Why do you think God allows great sinners as well as great saints to exist together?

What is the root cause of any scandal? How does a scandal start?

What is the way to deal with sin? For instance, if you want to deal with the pride you see in your life, what should you do?

What is the purpose of the Catholic Church’s moral teaching?

 

Chapter 2: You Can Handle the Truth

If you grew up Catholic, did you have any conversations with those from other faiths, or perhaps those with no faith at all? What questions or doubts (if any) did these conversations cause you to have? How were you able to answer them?

How can you make sense of all the conflicting aspects of Catholic history? What can “bad Catholics” teach us?

Patrick Madrid asks the question: “What do you think happened between the time of the apostles and the Protestant reformation?” How would you answer this question?

The Catholic Church officially teaches that it is the one, true church established by Jesus Christ. In your experience, how does this teaching affect interdenominational dialog?

What did Protestant John Henry Newman mean when he said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant”?

 

Chapter 3: Brought to My Senses

What is the purpose of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church? How does God use them in our lives?

How are the sacraments more than just “signs”?

Madrid says the sacraments are to the soul what food, water, and nourishment are to the body. Describe some of the parallels between them.

Name the three key effects that occur in a person who receives the sacraments. Have you experienced these effects in your own life? If so, what difference have they made?

How do you think about “spirit” and “matter”? Do you see one as good and the other as bad? What is the Church’s teaching about matter? What does a healthy understanding of matter look like?

What is the difference between “actual grace” and “sanctifying grace”? Why is it important to know the difference?

What is the definition of the word sacrament? How does the Catechism of the Catholic Church further define what a sacrament is?

Patrick Madrid says the sacraments accomplish three essential things for us. List them and give a short description of each.

How do the sacraments of baptism and confirmation “initiate” us in to the Church?

Have you thought of the sacraments as a means to heal the wounds in your life? Or have they seemed more like rituals? In what way can the sacraments—especially baptism, confession, and Communion—be powerful, grace-filled remedies for you?

What are some ways that the sacraments equip us to serve others? How do they do this?

 

Chapter 4: Soul Food: Mass and the Holy Eucharist

Why is the Mass called “the Mass”?

From New Testament times, Catholics have believed that the Eucharist is not merely a symbol of Jesus or a memorial meal; they believe that the Eucharist is Christ’s Real Presence. As a Catholic, how do you approach this with Protestant friends? What is the significance of Christ’s Real Presence in your life?

In your own words, explain what is meant by “transubstantiation” in terms of what happens to the bread and wine at Mass.

In what way is the Mass the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross here and now, in time and space?

 

Chapter 5: The Cure for What Ails Me: Confession and Healing

How does the Catholic Church provide the remedy for the “malaria” of sin?

Do you agree with Patrick Madrid that Catholics who regularly receive the sacrament of confession are the most psychologically healthy people on earth? Why or why not?

According to C.S. Lewis, how can confession help us when we don’t feel forgiven?

How would you answer someone who says that Catholics go the priest to confess their sins instead of going directly to God?

What has your experience of confession been? Is regular confession a priority for you, and if not, why not?

 

Chapter 6: A Rock that Will Not Roll: Peter and the Papacy

Why do you suppose Jesus chose Peter, with all his limitations, to be the first “pope”?  Describe some of those limitations and describe how God’s grace combined to transform him into a “rock.”

Why did Jesus change Peter’s name from Simon to Peter? What is significant about this?

What clues did Jesus give Peter about the special leadership role he was entrusted with? List some biblical examples that point to Peter’s primacy among the apostles.

In your own words, explain the Catholic doctrine of infallibility, which is found in paragraphs 889–892 of the Catechism.

Why is the concept of infallibility so often misunderstood, even by Catholics? List some the things papal infallibility does not mean.

Read 2 Timothy 3:1–5, and then list some of the ways these verses are relevant for us today.

Patrick Madrid says that the papacy has always been a sign of contention, attracting controversy, opposition, harassment, and even persecution. Through all of this, what qualities have kept the papacy intact?

What are some of the ways St. John Paul II positively impacted our world during the many years he was pope? Have any of these ways touched you personally? If so, describe the influence he had on you.

 

Chapter 7: Mamma Mia! The Blessed Virgin’s Role in God’s Plan of Salvation

The author says we are all attracted to goodness and beauty. Have you felt this pull in your own life? Describe some of the ways beauty has made an impact for you.

How does the Virgin Mary epitomize goodness and beauty?

What does the Catholic Church teach about the unique role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in God’s plan of salvation? How is this different than the way other Christian groups view her?

Explain in your own words what the Catholic Church believes about Mary: her immaculate conception (sinlessness), perpetual virginity, her bodily assumption, and her role as a heavenly intercessor. Have you ever struggled with any of these beliefs? If so, what helped you to better understand who Mary is?

How did Mary’s obedience to God counteract the catastrophe set in motion by Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden?

In what way is Mary truly the Mother of all Christians? Do you see her as your Mother? Describe some of the ways Mary has been a faithful Mother to you.

Is praying the Rosary something that is meaningful to you? How can you keep it from being a merely mechanical, formulaic prayer?

The author describes the dramatic way Our Lady’s intercession on his behalf protected him and his brother. Can you think of a time in your own life where you sensed Mary’s loving intercession on your behalf? Is there something going on right now in your life that you could entrust to her loving care?

What is one way you can deepen your love for Mary during this coming week?

 

Chapter 8: How ’Bout Them Saints? Mystics, Martyrs, and Miracle-Workers

Is sainthood reserved for a select few, or is it possible for everyone? In your own words, define what makes someone a saint.

Do you believe God can transform your sinfulness into holiness? Why or why not?

How can you cooperate more fully with God’s grace?

The author talks about how St. Dominic Savio was one of several saints who inspired him. What saint (or saints) in your life inspires you toward greater holiness? What saintly qualities do you desire to emulate?

What lessons do the saints teach us about being human and the power of God’s transforming grace? Give an example in your own life of how God has changed you.

Reading about the saints the author highlights in this chapter, decide to read more about two saints over the coming months. Which ones will you pick? As you study their lives, jot down the particular lessons that speak to you.

How would you explain the doctrine of the Communion of Saints to a non-Catholic? What four biblical truths could you use to support your explanation?

The author ends this chapter with the power of love. What are some practical ways you can increase your love for God and thus grow in holiness?

 

Chapter 9: Hello, I Love You: The Catholic Church’s Good Works

Service to the poor has always been a priority for the Catholic Church. How does your parish address the needs of the poor? What kind of involvement, if any, do you have in serving the poor?

What evidence do you see personally of how the Church serves others—whether hospitals and healthcare, the work began by St. Vincent de Paul, prisons, schools? Have you or someone you love been helped by the Church in any of these areas?

The author tells the moving story of Brother Christian, one of the French Trappist monks brutally murdered by an Islamic rebel group during the Algerian civil war. As you read what he wrote in his courageous farewell letter (“In God’s face I see yours”), think of situations in your own life where you’ve had difficulty recognizing God in others. How might you develop more of Brother Christian’s response and attitude?

What steps can you take to eradicate the “selfish opportunism” you see around you—in your family, your workplace, your community?

 

Chapter 10: Ah, the Good Life: The Awe, Wonder, and Goodness of God

Have you encountered attitudes and beliefs from anyone close to you that the Catholic Church is anti-scientific and anti-intellectual, full of ignorance and superstition? If so, what kind of response might you make?

List some of the ways the Catholic Church has continually been on the cutting edge of scientific inquiry and progress. List a few of the contributions Catholics have made.

What are some of the ways science has opened “new doors of perception on the unimaginable vastness and variety of the material cosmos”? How does this impact your faith?

How does the author define true happiness? Is there anything you would add to his definition?

Why is freedom of will so vital for us as humans? How does this freedom relate to happiness?

How does the Catholic Church teach people to be truly happy? And if this is true, why are there so many unhappy Catholics?

How would you rate your own level of true happiness? What might you do to increase it?

Madrid says many Catholics have not experienced at the heart level the Evangelical Christian concept of “being born again.” What does “being born again” mean? Have you ever had a “born again” experience? If not, what might you do to experience one?

Statistics show that when Catholic teaching is watered down or compromised, vocations decrease, while when orthodox Catholic teaching is strong, vocations increase. Explain in your own words why this is so.

What are some aspects of Catholic moral teaching that many people scorn as being “medieval”?

Explain in your own words the underlying reasons for the Church’s teaching on sex, contraception, and marriage. How does the Church’s logic help us to “know the true and do the good”?

The author says we all experience the emotion of longing. In your life, what intense longing have you felt, and how has it been answered (or not answered)?

Define what you mean by “living the Good Life.” How does this differ from the world’s definition?

Read the quote from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce on pages 205–207. Describe any insights you may have gleaned.

Now that you have read this book, if someone asked you, “Why should I be Catholic?” how would you answer the question?


BOOK TRAILER: The Feasts

Every day is a holiday in the Catholic Church. In their latest collaboration, Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina examine the history and traditions behind both favorite and forgotten holidays, from Christmas to Easter, from the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity to the Feast of the Holy Angels.


Reading Guide: The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Written fifteen years ago, The Holy Longing has become a classic on the topic of spirituality, touching the lives of devout believers and questioning seekers alike. Father Rolheiser isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, and he offers honest, straightforward answers that quickly get to the heart of common difficulties we all encounter as we seek to channel our restlessness and passion into a healthy, vibrant spirituality. If you’re searching for a deeper understanding of Christian spirituality and how it’s relevant to your life, you’ll be both challenged and delighted by this book.

Chapter 1: What Is Spirituality?

Ronald Rolheiser defines “desire” as our fundamental “dis-ease.” Explain some of the ways he describes desire. Which of Rolheiser’s descriptions resonate with you the most?

How would you define “spirituality”? Is it a religious term, or do you see it having a larger application? Do you see yourself as “spiritual”? How does the way you have thought of spirituality differ from the way Rolheiser defines it? How are desire and spirituality related?

What is your reaction to Fr. Rolheiser’s description of Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin, and Princess Diana? How might all three of these women fit the definition of being spiritual?  Describe a key lesson you can learn from each of them.

Rolheiser writes that we all act in ways that leave us healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. How has your spirituality shaped your actions up until now?

If you agree with Rolheiser’s definition of a saint being someone who can “channel powerful eros in a creative, life-giving way, what other examples can you cite of someone (either now or in the past) who fits this description, and why?

How do you define a “soul”? How does Fr. Rolheiser define a soul?

What happens within us that causes us to such experience intense struggles at times, according to Rolheiser? Can you share a time when this happened to you? What triggered it, and how did you deal with it?

Explain the difference between a healthy spirituality and an unhealthy spirituality, according to Fr. Rolheiser.

 

Chapter 2: The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality

Reflect on these questions, posed by Fr. Rolheiser. Pick the one that speaks most to you and try to answer it.

  • Am I being too hard or too easy on myself?
  • Am I unhappy because I’m missing out on life, or am I unhappy because I’m selfish?
  • Am I too timid and uptight, or should I be more disciplined?
  • Why do I always feel so guilty?
  • What do I do when I’ve betrayed a trust?

Rolheiser says that past societies were more overtly religious than we are today. While they had less trouble believing in God, they also struggled with other things. In what ways do those struggles inform belief in God, and what can we learn from them today?

What is “particularly peculiar” to our own religious, moral, and spiritual struggle? Where do you personally struggle to channel your own spiritual energies?

Fr. Rolheiser lists three struggles that he defines as being unique to our time. What are they?

Past cultures seemed to understand the nature of energy—especially spiritual, erotic energy—better than we do today. Why do you think that, despite our advancements, we are more naïve about the nature of energy? What are some of the results of this naiveté?

Fr. Rolheiser rightly notes that depression is one of contemporary society’s biggest problems. How does he define depression? How would you describe the opposite qualities of depression?

Have you struggled with depression? How has it manifested itself in your life? How have you dealt with it?

Where have you felt delight—the sense of being spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living? What triggered this for you? How often do you find yourself feeling this way?

What are some of the factors Rolheiser identifies that keep us shallow and prevent us from having real interior depth? What factors especially affect you?

Many today think religion is anti-sex, anti-creative, and anti-enjoyment, while the secular world is seen as full of the opposite. Have you encountered friends or family members who view religion this way? Have you ever struggled with this view yourself?

A growing number of people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. They want a relationship with God, but they don’t want to be part of an organized church. What social trends encourage this separatist view of God and religion?

Christians are often split between a passion for social justice and a private piety. Where do you find yourself on this spectrum?

In your own life, have you encountered any struggles with being selfless versus being taken advantage of? Describe the situation, and also how you resolved this conflict.

How do we keep moving forward, while at the same time staying realistic, about the unique pressures we face today? How can we creatively channel the erotic, spiritual fire within us in order to enjoy “creative days and restful nights”? How can we experience peace with God, ourselves, and each other?

 

PART TWO: THE ESSENTIAL OUTLINE FOR A CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

Chapter 3: The Nonnegotiable Essentials

As Rolheiser says, it’s not an easy matter to live out what is essential to our life of faith. What should we be doing with regards to our faith? Who should we listen to?

What defined someone as a practicing Roman Catholic thirty or forty years ago, and how does this differ from someone who is a practicing Catholic today? Should there be any difference? Why or why not?

List some of the religious baggage that secular society has carried over the years. Discuss some of the effects of these ideas.

What are some of the spiritual voices you hear around you today? How have these voices influenced you, both in good and not-so-good ways? How do you know which voices are the right ones? Which ones are healthy, and which are unhealthy?

The Catholic Church teaches that not all truths are equal. How do you personally distinguish between truths that are essential and those that are accidental? Define what is meant by an essential truth and what is meant by an accidental truth, according to Fr. Rolheiser.

What are the four nonnegotiable pillars of the spiritual life, revealed to us by Jesus Christ? Briefly describe each one. In your own life which of the four pillars are the strongest? Is any pillar missing?

Why is being part of a church community so important? Why can’t the spiritual life be just “Jesus and me”? In your own life, have you struggled with this nonnegotiable? What has been your experience of parish life, both positive and negative?

Reflect on this statement: “How we treat the poor is how we treat God.” Do you agree? Consider they ways you engage with forms of poverty, and how you can strengthen those bonds.

Do you agree with the statement: “Sanctity has to do with gratitude; to be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude”? Do you think it’s possible to be truly saint-like without being grateful? What difference does having a grateful heart make in your day-to-day life?

Rolheiser mentions fasting as a way to stay “warm of heart.” How might fasting accomplish this? Have you had any experience with fasting? If so, what was the outcome?

Bernard Lonergran, one of the great religious intellectuals of the century, attempted to define what constitutes a true religious conversion. He came up with six dimensions. See if you can name them, and then share which of the dimensions are active in your own life. If one or more is missing, why might this be?

 

 

PART THREE: THE INCARNATION AS THE BASIS FOR A CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

Chapter 4: Christ as the Basis for Christian Spirituality

Imagine Jesus himself asking you, as he asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” What answer would you give him?

What does Rolheiser mean when he says that the incarnation is “under-understood”?

Scholars have discussed at length what the apostle Paul meant by the term “the Body of Christ.” Did he mean it in a corporate or a corporeal way? What is the difference?

According to Fr. Rolheiser, if it is true that we are the Body of Christ, then God’s presence in the world depends very much upon us. How do you see yourself helping to accomplish this? Share some practical examples.

What difference does it make if you believe in God but not in Jesus? What difference does believing in Jesus make?

 

Chapter 5: Consequences of the Incarnation for Spirituality

Reflect on the verse at the beginning of this chapter from Matthew 7. Have you experienced times when asking, knocking, and seeking didn’t work? Why do you think God doesn’t always answer our prayers?

Do you agree with Rolheiser that, as part of the Body of Christ, we are meant to be concretely involved in answering our own prayers? Why or why not? Why is sometimes leaving things up to God not a Christian way to pray?

Think of someone you know who is struggling with depression or perhaps some type of illness. In addition to keeping this individual in your prayers, what could you do that would put “skin on” your prayers? How might God console this person through you?

Protestants and Catholics have long disagreed over how our sins are forgiven, with Protestants believing that sincere contrition before God is enough and Catholics emphasizing the need to confess our sins to a priest in the sacrament of confession. Has the way you’ve thought about the forgiveness of sins changed over the years? In what way?

Are there loved ones in your life who no longer share your faith, your values, and your morals? Maybe it’s a child that no longer embraces your faith. Or maybe your spouse no longer believes in God. Do you believe that “your touch is Christ’s touch”? What difference does this belief bring to bear on such uncomfortable situations?

Rolheiser says that spirituality for a Christian should never be an individualistic quest for God outside of community, family, and church. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

Explain what is meant by this statement: “The God of the incarnation is more domestic than monastic.”

Rolheiser makes the insightful observation that, up until age forty, genetic endowment is dominant, and so someone who is selfish can still look beautiful. After age forty, though, Rolheiser says that we look like what we believe in. What does your face reveal to you in terms of what you believe?

How does Rolheiser believe a Christian remains in contact, in love, and in community with his or her loved ones that have died? In what ways can you incorporate these views into your own grief?

 

PART FOUR: SOME KEY SPIRITUALITIES WITHIN A SPIRITUALITY

 

Chapter 6: A Spirituality of Ecclesiology

In the words of Reginald Bibby, “People aren’t leaving their churches, they just aren’t going to them.” Rolheiser attributes this to indifference and a culture of individualism. Have you observed this in your own life or in the lives of those you associate with? How are some ways the Church can address these issues?

What are some misconceptions people have about what it means to be a church? Of the five misconceptions Fr. Rolheiser identifies, what are some of the dangers of embracing them? Is there a particular misconception that you have encountered in your own spiritual quest? If so, how have you dealt with it?

Fr. Rolheiser says that to be baptized into a Christian church is to be “a consecrated, displaced person.” What does he mean by this? What are the implications of being consecrated to something or somebody, of being “called out of”?

Today many people are unable to see the Church as an instrument of grace due to certain aspects of the Church’s history as well as its present infidelities. How can we forgive the Church for these things?

Rolheiser says that to be “catholic” means to have a heart that is universal, wide, all-encompassing. He says that the spirituality of the church must emphasize wide loyalties and inclusivity. How can the Catholic Church achieve this today without falling prey to an “anything-goes” philosophy?

Fr. Rolheiser lists eight reasons we should go to church. Of these eight reasons, which resonate the most with you, and why?

 

Chapter 7: A Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery

What is the paschal mystery of Christ? How do we enter that mystery and live it?

What is the difference between terminal death and paschal death? Between resuscitated life and resurrected life? Lastly, what is the difference between life and spirit?

Rolheiser says that the paschal mystery is the secret to life, and that ultimately our happiness depends upon living it out. What does he mean by this? And how can we live out the paschal mystery in our daily lives?

Rolheiser identifies various deaths we need to experience in the course of our lives. He first mentions the death of our youth. In your own life, how have you experienced this? What lessons have you learned?

In talking about the death of our wholeness and the death of our dreams, Rolheiser speaks of the need for an ascension, the need to allow the old to ascend so we can receive something new. In your own life, what are you ready to let ascend? What dreams might you need to let go of? What can you look forward to if you do?

Are you undergoing any relational deaths? Name them here, and recognize and affirm the new relationship that has emerged instead. If a honeymoon period has ended, Rolheiser says God wants to give us something richer and deeper. Where do you see God birthing something new in your life?

Is the God of your youth different from the God you are faced with today? Is there anything you are clinging to that God is nudging you to release so you can recognize the God who walks beside you today?

Henri Nouwen wrote about mourning our deaths and losses, especially when we reach midlife. Why is it important to mourn properly? What hurts, losses, disappointments, or shattered dreams do you need to mourn? Spend some time in quiet reflection and then journal about this.

Rolheiser says it’s necessary to both let go of the old and allow it to bless us. What do you think he means by this? How can you let a painful or abusive experience “bless” you?

Describe your childhood roots. In what ways can your personal roots bless you?

 

Chapter 8: A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking

What does it mean to “act justly,” as Micah 6:8 says? What is Christian charity? How is justice different than private charity?

How can we help alleviate injustice without our actions resembling the violence and unfairness we are trying to change?

Reflect thoughtfully on Fr. Rolheiser’s words about abortion. He comments that too often neither side (those who favor legalized abortion and those who oppose it) acknowledge the deeper, systemic issues that underlie the problem. What are some of those issues, both for and against?

What does Fr. Rolheiser see as the ramifications of justice motivated merely by liberal ideology or indignation at inequality?

How would you define a biblical foundation for social justice? What affirmations does the Book of Genesis provide?

Achieving a more just world order is the goal of many groups, but too often these efforts have not been successful. Rolheiser says this is due to a kind of naivete, and he lists six fallacies that permeate justice and peace groups. Have you encountered any of these fallacies? Do you recognize your own naivete in any of them?

Many of us think of God as a force for redemptive violence—the use of violence to overthrow evil and establish justice and peace. But in effect, what happens is that goodness has now been more violent than evil. What is the difference between redemptive violence and the Christian story of redemption? What is the source of Jesus’s real power? What ultimately brings about justice and peace?

What does God’s power look like? How does it feel to feel as God does in our world? Fr. Rolheiser gives several examples. Which, if any, of them resonate with you? Describe why.

What does Rolheiser mean when he says, “The struggle for justice and peace is not ultimately about winning or losing but about fidelity”? What does fidelity have to do with it?

According to Rolheiser, what are our true weapons in the struggle for justice and peace? Which of these true weapons have you used—and with what results?

 

Chapter 9: A Spirituality of Sexuality

Define a mature spirituality, according to Fr. Rolheiser, and explain why this is at the center of the spiritual life.

What does a healthy sexuality look like? How can we understand and channel our sexuality correctly? Describe the main elements of a Christian spirituality of sexuality.

Rolheiser makes a critical distinction between sexuality and genitality. Explain in your own words the differences between these two terms.

What did the Greeks mean by the term eros, and how is this different from the typical way the term is understood today?

In your own words, describe how you, as a Christian, define sexuality. Give some examples from your own observations.

List the nonnegotiables Rolheiser says provide the anchor for a healthy Christian spirituality. Do you agree with all of them? Why or why not? Which ones are part of your spirituality?

How can the inner dynamics of sex lead people to sanctity?

How is chastity different than celibacy? What does it mean to be chaste?

Rolheiser says Christians must have the courage to let go of some of its fears and timidities regarding sex and learn instead to celebrate the goodness of sex. What are some ways Christians can celebrate the goodness of sex?

How can we as Christians better understand the times we live in and deal with the issues that result from living in the time between Christ’s resurrection and the end of time?

Instead of letting our restlessness drive us outward to more activity, distraction, etc., how can we turn it into solitude? How does solitude differ from loneliness? Why is solitude beneficial? Discuss the steps that Henri Nouwen suggests.

Do you ever wonder why Christ remained celibate? Rolheiser suggest a better question: What did Christ try to reveal through the way he incarnated himself as a sexual being? What was he trying to teach us?

How was Christ’s celibacy a key element of his solidarity with the poor? Describe how those who aren’t able to experience sexual consumption can be considered poor.

 

Chapter 10: Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life

Since it’s not enough to just have knowledge of the truth, how can we sustain ourselves on our long earthly journey? How can we move beyond our fatigue, loneliness, laziness, bitterness, and bad habits so we become gracious, happy, self-sacrificing, generative, mature Christians? Where do you tend to struggle the most?

What practices and exercises are helpful for you as you struggle to live a healthy Christian life in our agnostic, pluralistic, materialistic age?

Rolheiser talks about being a mystic. What does he mean by this, and how can we become mystics in our modern world?

Describe the value of personal prayer in our quest to sustain ourselves spiritually. What is the result of not praying?

How can we fulfill the Scripture, “Pray always”? What does the Bible mean by “pondering” and how can this help us to pray without ceasing?

Fr. Rolheiser says that carrying tension for God’s sake is the mysticism most needed in our day. When everything in our culture tells us to avoid tension, what do you think he meant by this?

What did Martin Luther mean by saying, “Sin boldly!”

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and why does the Bible say it is an eternal sin that can never be forgiven? What does this sin have to do with dishonesty and rationalization?

What is the value of ritual and community? What are some rituals that sustain your daily life?

Rolheiser lists some misconceptions about God that people have had in the past, as well as some evident today. Do you share any of these faulty views of God? How do you see God? How does Rolheiser describe God?

 


Reading Guide: Jesus the Bridegroom by Brant Pitre

Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Brant Pitre – Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Jesus the Bridegroom is a unique exploration of how Jesus’s suffering and death fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of a divine wedding—the God of the universe forming an everlasting nuptial covenant with his people. As Scott Hahn says: “This book will change you. It is an invitation to experience the sacraments, personal prayer, Scripture study, and marriage. Most of all, it will deepen your love for Christ.” In this book, many familiar passages of the Bible are transformed; when seen in the light of Jewish Scripture and tradition, we begin to see the life of Christ as nothing less than the greatest love story of all time.

 

Introduction

In the Bible as well as in Church teaching, there are many references to Christ as the “Bridegroom” and the Church as his “Bride.” What does this mean?

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul describes the relationship between a husband and wife. Why does Paul tell wives to “submit” to their husbands? Why don’t husbands have to submit to their wives, but just have to love them? What might the deeper meaning of these verses be—or do you see these words of Paul as chauvinistic and outdated?

In this same chapter of Ephesians, Paul compares the relationship between husbands and wives with Christ and the Church. Paul’s view is that the torture and crucifixion Jesus endured was an expression of spousal love. How do you explain something that sounds so mysterious—even incongruous? How could Jesus’s death be compared to a husband’s love for his wife? How could a brutal crucifixion be compared to a wedding?

If you had been present at the crucifixion and watched Jesus die such a painful death, how would you have described what was happening?

Chapter 1: The Divine Love Story

Today, some modern views of God range from seeing him as the Creator (who may or may not be involved in our daily affairs) to an impersonal “Higher Power” or an invisible “Problem Solver” to be invoked when things are out of control. How do these various contemporary definitions of God differ from the way first-century Jews saw God?

How do you see God? Has your view of who he is changed over the years, and in what ways?

How might seeing God as a “Bridegroom” change the way you relate to him? How would it change the way you view sin? What would be different if you truly saw sin as “spiritual adultery,” the betrayal of a relationship, instead of just “breaking the law” or “missing the mark”?

What does salvation mean to you? Do you see it as just the forgiveness of sins (as wonderful as that is), or do you see salvation as union with God? How would you describe what it means to be in union with God?

After reading this chapter, how has your understanding of the Song of Songs changed or expanded? Why would ancient Jewish tradition identify the bridegroom in the Song of Songs as God?

 

Chapter 2: Jesus the Bridegroom

If someone asked you to explain who Jesus of Nazareth was, why he lived, and why he died, how would you answer?

When John the Baptist tells his disciples that he is not the Messiah but rather the “friend of the bridegroom,” what do you think his hearers thought? What do you think John expected them to take away from what he said?

How do you typically read the Bible? What might change for you if you began to understand the words of Scripture from their original, first-century Jewish context?

Jesus’s first public miracle was changing water into wine at a wedding (see John 2:1–11). Since Jesus was only a guest at this wedding, why do you think Mary would have mentioned the lack of wine to him?

Why does Jesus address Mary as “Woman” instead of “Mother”? If he wasn’t being disrespectful, why would he have chosen to speak to her that way?

Jesus indicated to Mary that it’s not “his hour.” What could this mean? But then, he performed a miracle anyway. What did he intend his disciples to understand by this sign?

Reflect on this first miracle of Jesus in light of the ancient Jewish expectation of an abundant divine banquet to come. What might Jesus be signaling to those who have eyes to see? What is he revealing about his own divine identity?

How can we begin to see the Last Supper as a wedding banquet? What clues does Jesus provide? How does having knowledge of the Jewish background help us to more fully understand the meaning of the Last Supper?

How does Jesus reveal himself to his disciples as the true Bridegroom?

 

Chapter 3: The Woman at the Well

How does the Samaritan woman “prefigure” all believers who make up the Bride of Christ?

What is the significance of Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well taking place at “Jacob’s Well”?

The Samaritans were generally despised by the Jews and thought to be unclean. Why would Jesus engage a Samaritan woman in conversation?

What is the meaning of the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well? Why do they discuss “living water”?

List some similarities between Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well and Jacob’s encounter with Rachel. What significance might these similarities have?

What are the various meanings for the phrase “living water” in biblical times? What does Jesus mean by the term?

What is the connection between Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well and his crucifixion? How does living water come into play here?

St. Augustine wrote that the Samaritan woman “bore the type of the Church.” What do you think he meant by this?

 

Chapter 4: The Crucifixion

If Jesus is the Bridegroom and the sinful human race is his bride-to-be, when exactly is his wedding day? How does he become married to his bride?

Read Jesus’s answer in Mark 2:19–20 when people asked him why his disciples didn’t fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Why didn’t he just answer the question rather than giving such a cryptic response involving wedding imagery?

How does the understanding of Jewish wedding traditions and definitions of unfamiliar terms like “sons of the bridegroom” and “bridechamber” provide us with a deeper description of the crucifixion? What significance do they convey?

If thousands of Jews both before and after Jesus also died by crucifixion, why was Jesus’s death on the cross any different? Why is his crucifixion the only one in all of history to be described as a marriage? What light does this shed on his true identity and why he died that way?

A number of biblical scholars have concluded that the seamless garment that Jesus wore signifies that he is not just the Messiah, but also a priest. Why is this connection between Jesus’s garment and the priesthood important for us to grasp?

 

Chapter 5: The End of Time

The author says that although the wedding of the Messiah and his bride begins with the crucifixion, it is not yet fully complete. What does he mean by this?

If the great wedding between God and humanity is underway, but not yet complete, when will its actual fulfillment take place?

In the Jewish tradition, it was the duty of the bridegroom to have a home ready beforehand for his bride—unlike modern times where a couple gets married first and then buys their first home together. How does this shed light on Jesus’s words to his disciples during the Last Supper, when he says, “When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be” (John 14:3)?

To most of us, the word apocalypse means “the catastrophic destruction of the universe.” But the Greek word apokalypsis had a different meaning for ancient Jews. What is that meaning, and how can this transform our understanding of the Apocalypse described in the book of Revelation?

How are the “new Jerusalem” and the “new Israel” described in the Book of Revelation also images of the bride of Christ?

When John says that the bride of Jesus is also a “new temple,” what does this mean?

List the similarities between the Garden of Eden and the “new Eden” John describes in Revelation 22:1–5.

What is the reason for Jesus saying that there will be no more marriage between men and women in the kingdom of heaven?

 

Chapter 6: The Bridal Mysteries

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the entire Christian life “bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church (CCC, 1617).  How can focusing on Jesus the Bridegroom not only shed light on the deeper meaning of his life and death, but also show us the deeper significance of what it means to be a Christian?

What does the sacrament of baptism mean to you? Does it have any significance beyond being an outward sign of turning away from sin or a ritual of being initiated into the Catholic Church? If so, what might it also signify?

What are the similarities of being baptized and the ancient Jewish tradition, the bridal bath?

How has the author’s commentary on the deeper meaning of baptism affected you? List any new insights you may have received. How might your new understanding impact the way you experience your faith on a daily basis?

How does baptism prepare Christians for an even deeper union with Christ in the Eucharist?

For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is a “memorial” of the Last Supper and the events that occurred on the night Jesus was betrayed. For others, it is a “sacrifice” made present through the bread and wine. What further meaning comes to light if we look at the Eucharist through the lens of Jesus being the Bridegroom and the Church being his bride?

St. John Chrysostom warned against receiving Communion in a state of unrepented grave sin. What did he mean? Why is this more than just “breaking the rules”?

Have you ever thought of the Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and the bride,” as St. John Paul II referred to it? How would this change your experience when you receive Communion?

How does the Christian view of marriage differ for those who see it as a divine institution and those who merely view it as a human institution?

In what ways should a Christian marriage be like the supernatural love between Christ and the Church? How would this look in a practical sense?

Beyond human procreation, what is the highest purpose of Christian marriage?

If you are married, have there been times when you have shared in your spouse’s suffering, out of love? What were the circumstances, and what effect did this have on your spiritual growth?

The author says that the key to understanding the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharist, and marriage as “nuptial mysteries” is to recognize them as “participations in the mysteries of the Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection. In what ways has this book deepened your understanding of this mysteries and given you a new way of looking at these familiar sacraments?

 

Chapter 7: Beside the Well with Jesus

The author says that when we recognize Jesus as the Divine Bridegroom, we begin to recognize ourselves as the Samaritan woman. In what ways do you see yourself as the woman at the well?

Explain the meaning of this statement from the Catechism: “Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.”

Jesus is waiting for us to bring him our brokenness and ask him to give us the gift of his Spirit. What area (or areas) of brokenness are there in your life? What difference might the gift of the Holy Spirit make in these broken places?

As this study draws to a close, what are the top three takeaways you gleaned?

 



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